Community Stories. Get Inspired, Get Underlined


By @blu

Chapter 1

It was on a Sunday. The day my view of myself took a turn on me. That sweet little girl my parents saw me as- she ran away to someplace far. I haven’t seen her since. All I know is that this new girl… well, she’s got problems. 

It was a church day. Normally, this was a day I could just breathe and take the time to bond with people who looked at me differently than people at school normally would. Some kids felt sorry for me. Maybe the braces on my legs gave them the impression I was hurting. No- it was just the way I was. Not their fault. No need to feel sorry. 

Yet here, we were closer than just casual waves in the hallway. We were waves and a big hug. We were brothers and sisters, joined together by a common belief in a father who created us. Might seem silly to some, but we really did believe in Him. 

At 5:30 in the afternoon, youth group had started and most everyone had already arrived. I walked over to the table to sit down with Renea and Emily, two girls I usually hung out with on these nights. 

There was just one thing different about church today. And that was the fact that two new kids had joined the youth group.

We watched as two others walk into the room and passed us, walking in tentatively, seeming to be uncomfortable with the buzzing atmosphere of loud conversations of already formed groups of friends. They made their way to the back of the room and sat at one of the tables, drinking in the look of everything. 

They seemed to be siblings. Both my age. She had light brown hair that layered over her shoulders and down her arms, a tangled bunch. She had a slim build, wearing black basketball pants and a grey jacket that wasn’t zipped up all the way. I noticed that she was deep in thought, music streaming through her ear buds, her soft blue eyes sinking into hidden emotions. 

Her brother was less reserved, though, as he quickly joined the other boys, Daniel and Adam. I later learn that his name was Jaden. His face shape was similar to his sister’s, same turned up nose and observant expressions, but different eyes. His were a warm hazel, always looking this way and that, seemingly thinking about his surroundings. He was quiet, but at the same time, he could be loud and crazy, matching the other boys. 

Dahna had seemed lonely for a while and I wasn’t sure how to come in and introduce myself. Youth group always made me feel so welcomed. The thing that made it so great wasn’t the place, but the people. The feeling of love and kindness always filled the room on these Sunday nights, always as crazy as the last. 

Luckily, I had Renea and Emily to follow. They also seemed interested in talking to the new girl. 

“Guys, you wanna go say hi to them? The girl looks shy,” Emily chirped, her voice smooth and sweet as usual. 

Renea and I agreed with a smile, so we walked over to the table before dinner and waited for them to bring the pizza. 

I felt quite irrational about the situation because I had no idea what to do, but I ended up speaking to the new girl, “Hi, my names Eden,”

“Nice to meet you,” she said, quietly, taking out her ear buds, “Mine’s Dahna.” 

Thinking of what to say, I let the others talk and Dahna and I just gave quick smiles every few minutes. I felt shaky because of the way I was seeing her. It was different from how I usually saw girls my age. Almost like that feeling you get around a cute guy… the butterflies and stuttering words. But the only difference is that she’s a girl and I couldn’t, wouldn’t ever like her. Not like that. I’m never liking anyone anyways- not after what happened- stop it, Eden. 

“So where do you go to school?” Emily flipped her long black hair over her shoulder and looked at Dahna warmly. 

“I’m actually home schooled.” Dahna replied shyly. 

“That’s still cool!” I said, smiling a little, trying to push out of my stupor. 

“It can be…”. Dahna looked down at her hands, twisting her fingers in a nervous energy. 

Soon, the adults, had brought the food in, the warm scents filling the room with hunger. Carson Withrow, the youth pastor, and his grandpa, Mr. Louis, were opening the boxes and setting plates and silverware on a white fold out table. 

Carson had become the youth leader only a few months ago, starting a new series of Bible studies about the first century church. His grandpa always helped out, adding in few jokes about Carson’s childhood that would make him turn red in the face. They had this kind of relationship. 

“Carson,” Mabel Withrow spoke softly into the room, her eyes blank, hands resting gently against the chipped frame of the double doors. 

I hadn’t even noticed her coming into the basement, which the youth meetings were always held in. Mabel was a quiet person, speaking usually only when spoken to, and a still person as well, since she couldn’t see her surroundings with the blind eyes she was given. 

Carson looked up from the plates he was setting up and quickly walked over to his cousin, brushing a loving finger over her arm to let her know he was there. She held onto his elbow, softly, knowing he wasn’t going anywhere. They had years of trust built into that touch. 

“You first, Cuz,” he said to her when they reached the pizza, handing her a paper plate. 

“No,” she smiled warmly, setting it back down, “Let the kids go first.”

Carson shrugged, “I tried,” then he called out to everyone in a booming voice to get their attention, “Food’s here, everyone! Come get your plates!” 

“Before Grandpa eats it all,” Mr. Louis chuckled, his eyes crinkling at the corners, the blue sparkling in his gaze. He thinks he’s so funny. 

I laughed inside with a smile. I loved Mr. Louis. 

We all filled into a line to grab a piece of pizza, the guys behind us laughing about some inside joke, giving side punches and obnoxious smirks. Then, Henry, one of the Seniors would explain how their jokes were immature and unintelligent. But at the end of the day, they’d get even him to crack a smile. 

I grabbed a few paper plates and passed them back to the girls behind me. It was like a family dinner. Warm, crazy, and the same, but with a twist on detail, every single time we gathered here for dinner. It felt good. 

“Oooh, pizza,” Dahna stared wide eyed at the open boxes, smiling.

“Yup,” I smiled back at her, grabbing myself a piece of pepperoni pizza.

At the end of the line, I handed Dahna a cup of pink lemonade, then picked up another for myself. I guided her towards the end of the big roundtable, where all the chairs were empty so far since everyone was still getting food. 

One by one, everyone made their way to the table, talking with excitement, not seeing each other all week. We prayed first, then started to eat. 

“Well, you’re a hungry bunch tonight, aren’t you?” Mr. Louis smirked, eying Adam’s plate full of maybe 5 pieces of cheese pizza. 

Adam bit into a piece, “Aren’t we always?” 

Mr. Louis chuckled. 

Jake, the youngest of the group, who was in 5th grade, skipped over to Adam, smiling widely, “Carson said we can get sodas tonight.” 

Adam, who was just swallowing his food, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and stood up at the mention of soda, “Oh, sweet.” 

Jake guided him over to the mini fridge that was sitting on the ground near the counters and sinks, then they bent down to search through their options of sodas. 

“Hey, Adam, could ya grab me a sprite?” Emily shouted back as she was making her way to sit by me. 

“‘Kay,” he replied. 

I looked down at my cup of lemonade, disappointed that the opportunity of soda was out of my hands, “Aw, man. I already got a drink.” 

Emily looked over to me and gave a puppy face. 

“So what brings you to East Hills Church of Christ?” Renea asked Dahna, who was sitting to the right of her. 

“Oh, um, my family just moved here… well, a few weeks ago,” she replied. 

“Oh, cool!” Emily piped, “How do ya like it here so far?” 

“It’s good.” 

Carson walked over to the end of the table and offered a hand to Dahna, smiling warmly, “Hey, I met your mom and dad this morning at service. Glad you could make it to youth group.” 

“Thanks,” she replied, returning the hand shake, “Me too.” 

“What’s your brother’s name? I haven’t gotten the chance to talk to him yet.” Carson asked, watching the boys teach Jaden how to balance a carrot on his nose. 


“Cool. You two the same age, or…” he waited for her to finish his thought. 

“Yeah. We’re both in 8th grade,” she smiled a little, her mouth making a straight line. 

“Sweet. Glad you could make it. We’ll have to play some awkward introduce ourselves game after dinner,” he teased, turning around after he finished to walk back to his seat. I could see that the back of his shirt said Let’s taco bout Jesus. But instead of taco, it just had a picture of a taco. I rolled my eyes. 

“Oh, okay,” Dahna said, cringing at the word introduce. 

“He’s just kidding,” I reassured her. 

“No. No, he’s not,” Emily laughed, “He’s acting like he is just so you’ll say long enough for him to corner us all in a room and say our names plus something weird. Like what we ate for breakfast or something. Then… well, the other games are alright. Just awkward.”

“Oh… yeah,” I shook my head, placing my chin over my fist, “Brutal.” 

“Doesn’t sound so bad…” Dahna seemed to be thinking about something deeply, then she shrugged and took a bite of pizza. 

“I’ve always wanted a twin,” I said, trying to start a new topic, “Is it cool?” 

“Oooh, yeah,” Emily’s eyes grew big and she leaned forward, listening closely, “Me too. I always thought it would be cool. Like having a copy of myself.” 

Dahna shrugged, then looked over at her brother, “Well, as you can see, he’s not a copy of me.” 

Everyone looked over to see Jaden entertaining Adam and Jake, their laughing reaching their ears all the way across the table. Something humored Jake, so he fell over his hands in a yell, pushing the edge of his fork into the already chipped table, his back trembling with a laugh. 

“Definitely not,” Renea looked at him, almost disgusted, “You don’t seem like the person who would eat your pizza with…. Ketchup.” 

Dahna’s eyebrows furrowed, confused. Then, she looked down at her brother and shook her head, “Jaden! That’s disgusting!” 

He stopped squeezing the plastic bottle of ketchup over his pizza and turned to where he heard his name, then spotted his sister and cocked his head to the side, “What?” Then he looked down to take a bite of pizza and laughed at her reaction to his dipping experiment, “Oh-” and he threw his head back in a short laugh. 

She shook her head, “Ick.” 

“He’s… interesting,” I observed, smirking at the disappointed reaction to her brother. I tucked a thick of strand of my blonde hair behind my ears, already getting used to these two siblings. 

“Yeah… Interesting,” she rolled her eyes. 

“Wish I had a brother,” I said. 

She looked surprised, “Well, then, you can have mine.” 

I laughed. She seemed to be getting more comfortable with everyone and that made me happy. With an idea, I asked her, “Do you want my number so we can talk more outside of church?”

“Sure.” She replied, smiling. 

“Oh, mine too. We could start a group chat,” Emily added in, her hazey green eyes glowing. 

Renea’s dark curls drooped over her face as she leaned in, as if we were planning something secretive, “I’m in.” 

“Sweet. It was nice to meet you by the way.” I said. 

“You too.” 

Soon enough, the night had gone by in laughter and meaningful conversations. It would always be the time of week I looked forward to. It was an uplifting, yet obviously odd night for me because I didn’t know what to think of my new acquaintance. 

But one thing that struck me hard in the stomach was the slight realization my thoughts were giving me. You have a crush on her, they would tell me. God doesn’t like that. No one in the church will like that. Just watch. You don’t belong there. 

I let my head rest on the cool window of the car. I drifted into a deep place, one word repeating over and over inside my head…


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